Helping to overcome disability: when we all depend on one another

There is a deep contradiction in personal attitudes towards disability. It seems that we fail to remember what a civilized society means. We forget that mutuality and reciprocity are the keystones for building our communities, and we depend on each other no matter if we are disabled or not. The term disability refers to a different sort of restrictions on individuals to make part of what we refer as normal in our societies. According to the World Health Organization, “disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations”. As we can tell from this definition, the term disability is distant from being just a health issue. It necessarily refers to interactions between someone’s body characteristics and the society where he or she belongs to. With this in mind, disabilities could be sensorial, physical, mental, emotional, developmental o cognitive, and they could be present from birth or develop during lifetime.  

According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, more than 50 million people, or 22% of the population, have some type of disability; in other words, physically disabled population is the largest minority group of the U.S. Mobility limitation was the most common type of disability (13%), followed by cognition (10.6%), independent living (6.5%), vision (4.6%) and self-care (3.6%). The report says that likelihood of having a disability is higher in people with lower education levels, lower incomes and unemployed. Among people at working age that reported any type of disability, 48% are unemployed. 74% among people with a severe disability are unemployed. In general terms, adults living with disabilities are more likely to be obese, smoke, have high blood pressure and be inactive. Surprisingly, this segment of the population is three time more likely to have a heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer. If in the particular case of the city of Chicago, approximately 23% of the population reported having any kind of disability.

Five Chicago Disabilities Nonprofits and Charities

All of us are at risk of having a disability at any time. Removing environmental and social obstacles is the right way of helping people with disabilities to overcome their difficulties. These Chicago based organizations are making valuable efforts, and we should think on helping them.  

  • The Chicago Lighthouse (1850 W Roosevelt Road) this is a world-renowned non-profit organization serving visually impaired and blind communities (including deaf-blind and multi-disabled). They provide over 35 rehabilitation programs and services for people of all ages. The Chicago Lighthouse focus on optimizing remaining vision, meet educational objectives, find employment and lead to achieve more independent lives. For volunteering and donations, go to their website.

  • Anixter Center (2001 N Clybourn Ave #302) it is one of the largest community rehabilitation non-profit agencies in the Chicago area. They provide various services and supports for people of all ages with disabilities and related issues. They offer employment services such as job training; education programs like therapeutic school and adult literacy; health services for hearing problems, addiction recovery and mental issues; twenty four hours supervised residential homes. For volunteering and donations contact Carleen Emde at 773-973-7900 x249.

  • Belle Center of Chicago (1754 West Wilson Avenue) this is a non-profit organization supporting children with disabilities and their families in order to promote their rights and expectations to be fully included in their communities. They provide specific services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy for children, educational and social services, professional workshops, among others. For volunteering and donations call 773-878-7868.

  • Down in the Southland (Tinley Park) this non-profit organization is dedicated to promote the development of lifelong education, social and life skills to individuals suffering from Down syndrome in the southern suburbs of Chicago. Their programs aim to inculcate the positive influences and importance of people with Down syndrome in our society. For volunteering and donations, go to their website.

  • Muscular Dystrophy Association (222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1500) this is the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to help people overcome the issues related to the harm of muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases, which take away people’s physical strength and independence. They try to reach their objectives by funding research and providing comprehensive health care to kids and adults from day one in order to help them grow stronger and live longer. They also advocate for local engagement of communities on fighting this painful reality across the country. For volunteering and donations, go to their website.   
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